Barnyard animals provide a good example of how not to make a fuss about what it means to live – they just live. Standing in a slaughterhouse queue, a mature sheep, for example, accepts an impending bullet-in-the-brain with perfect metaphysical vacuity. Huge numbers of men live according to this model. They’ve little else on their minds other than than to keep their bellies full and their testicles empty.
Does it matter that we should raise our snoots out of the feed-trough long enough to behold ourselves in the abstract? I can live with the fact that some humans will prefer the feed-trough to abstract thought – in fact, I expect it. We are all humans, but in his book, Creative Being, Eliot Deutsch wrote,
“A person is an achievement…Personhood is an articulation of one’s being.”
It might be possible to be a person without knowing what it is to love, though I doubt it. It might be possible to be a person without compassion, though I doubt it. And it might be possible to be a person without knowing wonder, though I doubt it. When the Italian chemist and writer, Primo Levi, first arrived at the Monowitz concentration camp in the 1940’s, he made the mistake of questioning an order. He was told, not so gently;
“Hier ist kein Warum.”
“Here, there is no ‘why’.”
Indeed, a world in which I were capable of asking “why,” but not permitted to do so, would be for me a kind of Konzentrationslager.
Humans and other animals inhabit a forest of things, but the French poet, Charles Baudelaire, correctly noted that people inhabit a “forÍt de symboles.” Symbols symbolize. Philosophical thought is that noble enterprise whose aim is to understand what we mean by our symbols.
10 Oct 2003 16:27
original seen here